Workshop Uses Music to Help Students Grasp Writing Skills

By Jennae Wallace
Community News

 Washington, DC – Kennedy Center

Joyzann west, an 8-year old forth grader, jumped out of her seat at the sound of Marvin Gaye’s “let’s Get It On.” The song was an attempt to teach Joyzann proper grammar and language; however she and 300 of her school-mates jus sang along and swayed to the beat of the music.

Third through sixth graders at Miner Elementary School in Northeast participated in “Rap, Rhythm & Rhyme: Rebuilding the Writing Foundation workshop” last Friday at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts on New Hampshire Avenue and Rock Creek Parkway. The 11-year-old writing workshop uses music and dance to help children master the fundamentals of writing. The programs founder, Erik Cork, established International Write Now, Inc., based in Houston, Texas. He has presented the one-man workshop to more that 100,000 students in an excess of 500 schools.

Angela Tilghman, the principal of Miner Elementary Shool at 601 15th St. N.E., saw cork at a school in New Orleans and invited him to speak with students for the day. “I thought he was just wonderful. We believe that the more strategies kids have, the more they can learn, so this is a different strategy for them,” Tilghman said.

While listening to music, the students read the definitions of grammatical terms such as “paragraph,” which were written in large, colorful letters on transparencies to capture their attention. During the workshop, Cork used examples of incorrect grammar in songs to demonstrate the right war to construct a sentence. In Patti Labelle’s “Still water,” the students changed the phrase ‘still wart run deep, yes it do” to “ still water runs deep, yes it does.” In defining rap, Cork had the students chant “a poem with a beat” over and over again to hip hop beat blaring in the background.

The children were receptive, “I thought it was just another field trip,” said Brittany Daughtry, an 8 year old third grader at Miner. “Now I think its fun.” The teachers also joined in the singing. Two weeks earlier, Cork spoke with teachers about using other methods of teaching. At the presentation, they were more that willing to join in on the chants and songs. Tilghman said she and other teachers would use some of Cork’s basic concepts to reinforce the point he made that day. Amber Cole, a 9 year old fourth grader, had written tow point in he workbook “stick to the topic” and “use varied word choice.”

“They haven’t been on a bathroom break all morning,” Cork said. “they didn’t want to go to lunch. That tells you how it impacts them.” Maurice Foster, an 11-year old fifth grader, said he enjoyed the program and was eager to share his experience. “I learned that parts of speech and wring are important. I loved all the songs. I was dancing and answering questions,” he said.

Tiffany Dean-Wright